Canon Announces Powerhouse EOS 1D X

The Canon 1D X
The Canon 1D X is jammed with new features - by Canon

For Canon a big X marks the spot for the new king of the EOS line, the Canon EOS 1D X, which merges the 1D and 1Ds lines into one model. Offering a new combination of speed, resolution and image quality, Canon claims the 1D X is the most advanced EOS model it has ever produced and, from the specs, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

The 1D X features a newly-developed 18.1-megapixel full frame sensor with 16-channel read-out and a sensitivity rating of ISO 100-51200, expandable to an eye-popping ISO 204,800. With ISO numbers like that you have to be approaching the ability to take pictures in the dark.

Backing up new sensor will be not one, but two Digic 5+ image processors. Canon claims speeds up to three times faster than the standard Digic 5 processor. The dual processors allow for full-resolution continuous shooting at up to 12 fps with 14-bit A/D conversion, which can be pushed to 14 fps in JPEG only mode.

It’s clear that Canon is aiming the 1D X at filmmakers, who have been generally opting for the Canon 5D MKII instead of the 1D or 1Ds. Canon claims the new Digic 5+ will reduce artifacts from moire and provide longer continuous shooting times by automatically creating a new file once it reaches the 4 GB file limit. Canon claims the continuous shooting time can be extended to nearly 30 minutes, up from 12 minutes in the 5D and 7D.

The 1D X also features twin CF cards which can be set to either write from one card to the next or duplicate photos on both cards.

In another nod to professionals using their Canon cameras primarily for video, the 1D X includes the ability to manually adjust the sound levels which are displayed on the LCD screen. You can almost hear millions of video shooters saying, “Finally!” at the same time.

Integrated into the camera is a gigabit ethernet port, but no word yet on whether video shooters will be able to get a raw data feed out of the data port. Right now that seems unlikely, but stay tuned.

The 1D X has added a second joystick on the back for controlling camera functions along with a 3.2 inch Clear View II LCD screen with 1040k dot resolution and anti-reflective coating. If you’ve ever noticed your pictures seem to look better in the LCD screen than on your computer, expect that to be even more noticeable with the 1D X.

back of Canon 1D X
On the back the 1D X sports another joystick controller - by Canon

As you would expect from any top of the line camera, the 1D X sports a high-grade magnesium alloy, advanced weather seals, and a new sensor cleaning system that uses wave-based vibrations to shake dust and dirt from the sensor.

Canon has some add-on features available that include the GP-E1 GPS receiver and the new WFT-E6 wifi transmitter.

In an unusual move Canon has announced the availability of the 1D X in March 2012, apparently trying to get some of their customers to postpone holiday purchases. U.S. pricing is expected to be in the range of $6,800 for the body only.

Video from Canon:

Five Tips For Longer Camera Battery Life

Nikon power pack
Nikon power pack because you can never have too much power - by Derek Ramsey

Most pros I know do more than carry a spare battery, they carry three or four spares, besides the full size battery pack most already have attached to their camera. Camera power is like money, there’s no such thing as too much.

Perhaps you’re not shooting at a pro level or don’t want to carry three or four spare batteries. There are several tricks for making the batteries you carry last longer.

Don’t Drop Them

This was more critical back in the NIMH days, but very few batteries are improved by repeated impacts with a hard surface. I try to take a knee to change batteries, if I can do so safely. That way if I drop it, it doesn’t have so far to fall.

That also means making sure you hear the locking click of the battery holder and battery door before going back to the shoot.

Keep them in a padded pocket in your vest or camera bag.

Minimize LCD Screen Use

That means cutting down on the image pre-view after the shot and resisting the temptation to scroll through your images every few minutes.

Live view, image viewing, the LCD screen is a big draw on the battery. I review my pictures before leaving a shoot and check the pre-view as I go, but that’s about it. I don’t scroll through each series as I shoot it.

Turn Off The Flash When You Don’t Need It

The problem with automatic shooting settings is the camera doesn’t know when it’s going to need the flash, so in auto modes the camera has to charge the flash capacitors just in case. That charging and flash prep happens every time you turn the camera on and off.

Don’t Push The Shutter Button Half-Way For No Reason

Pushing the shutter button for the heck of it kicks off a whole raft of power-sucking processes inside your camera. It has to run the autofocus motors, fires up the camera’s internal computer and display and, if the flash is on, top off the flash capacitors.

Easy On The Video

Video mode is a huge power vacuum, particularly in cameras like the Canon 5D MKII. The LCD is in live mode continuously and the camera is generating quite a lot of heat.

Cut down on the amount of time you’re in video mode and your batteries will last a lot longer.

Canon Launches SX40 HS Super Zoom

Canon SX40 HS
Canon SX40 HS Super Zoom will tempt even pro video shooters - by Canon

The Canon SX40 HS is an interesting blend of features that could be compelling for both the consumer and video professionals looking for a fixed position camera to set up for wide shots.

The showcase feature is a 35x super-zoom with a range that starts at 24mm on the wide end of the scale and runs out to an amazing 840mm on the zoom, all riding on a combination of Ultrasonic and Voice Coil Motors for fast, silent zooming.

Behind the amazing zoom technology is a 12.1 megapixel 1/2.3 BSI-CMOS sensor with a stated ISO range of 100 to 3,200. Backing that up is Canon’s new Digic 5 image processor which promises more advanced noise reduction.

The only minor niggle is the burst mode is limited to 8 full-resolution shots which it clicks off at a respectable 10.3 shots per second.

Canon bumped the video features to support full 1080p HD at 24 fps (see this story for a discussion on video frame rates). For those using their Canon DSLRs primarily for video, this is an interesting feature. It would allow them to consider putting an SX40 on a high boom or jib and using it for covering wide angle shots. Video shooters will also appreciate the fully articulated 2.7 inch LCD on the back and full manual controls.

SX40 HS back
SX40 HS back - By Canon

The only concern for video shooters will be the chip size, which may look a little soft next to footage from a Canon 5D or Canon 7D. But if the video sample below is any indication, that won’t be a problem. I could use that footage for a cut-away without any serious issues.

Overall, at a sub-$450 price point, Canon should have a winner in the SX40.

7 Tips For Fashion Photography

fashion photography
I could have picked a different picture to illustrate fashion photography but why? - by Martin Mraz, Julie Wimmer

Fashion photography is a little like being a clothing designer: It’s one of those occupations people devote their entire lives to learning and clawing their way to the top of the pile. While you can find people who fell into other areas of photography, like weddings and portrait photography, you hardly ever find anyone who blunders into fashion photography.

There’s a reason for that. You not only have to be hot on the trigger with quality equipment, you have to have the unique ability to push visual imaging to the extreme with planning, preparation and a relentless dedication to perfection.

Having made the case for how difficult to get into fashion photography as living, it’s one of those things I highly recommend every photographer try, even if you don’t end up making any money off of it. Because it’s fun and exciting and the industry has produced some of the compelling images that probably got you into photography in the first place.

The good news is you probably won’t need to buy or rent a new camera. Most of the high end DSLRs today, like the Canon 5D and Nikon D300s with a good lens have the resolution for fashion photography.

If you are planning on giving it a try, here are a few tips for trying your hand at fashion photography.

1) Collect some books on the subject. Books on fashion, fashion photography, tear sheets, and images of lighting set ups. Anything you can lay your hands on. Books on hairstyles, makeup cards, and the Fashion Photography group on Flickr. Don’t just study fashion photography, live and breath it.

Everyone in photography gets burned out once in a while. A splash in the pool of fashion photography will be as refreshing as a morning swim.

2) Collect lighting gear. Lots of lighting gear. Soft boxes, umbrellas, a ring flash, strobes vertical boxes, reflectors, spots and even shop lights. Make bizarre lighting gadgets out of whatever you have laying around the house. Having an interesting subject is only part the battle, being able to piece together the perfect lighting set up is a huge part of a successful fashion shoot.

3) Plan meticulously. Great shots may happen by accident, but you can raise the odds of getting one by being prepared. Go over and over your concepts, make sure you have a supply of props, backgrounds and supports, even if you don’t end up using them.

4) Don’t try to do it all yourself. A makeup artist that has worked with photographers before is worth their weight in gold. A hair stylist with a flair for the freakish and bizarre can turn what starts out as an average look into something from another world. Yes, those people are usually paid for their time, but you will be amazed at the difference it makes.

5) Be the director. There are some models who don’t need a lot of coaching, but they are few and far between. Don’t be afraid to be in charge, but don’t be dismissive. Once you get into the shooting groove, other people will be inspired and chime in with ideas. Listen to them. Try some of them even if you don’t agree. You might be surprised at the results.

6) Shoot continuously. Don’t merely shoot hundreds of pictures, shoot thousands. You and your models should be in near continuous motion unless they’re on break or in the bathroom. Shoot close in, pull back, move in again, and try different angles including above and below. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Shoot as long as your model can stand the shoes. Let’s face it, even a blind sow gets an acorn once in a while and when you have 2,000 pictures to pick from, there are bound to be a few keepers.

7) Break the rules. Don’t just trash the rule book, tear it into pieces, set it on fire, and drive over the ashes with a cement mixer. Shoot the stock shots, then get crazy. As long as it doesn’t involve the risk of grievous bodily injury to yourself or the models, try it.

For an example of fashion photography done right check out Adriana Curcio.

Is Digital Medium Format Worth It?

sensor size chart
A comparison of digital sensor sizes - Wikipedia

In the not too distant past, you didn’t think about shooting a portrait with a 35mm camera.  You had your Hasselblad or Mamiya 645.  Weddings could go either way, I carried a 35mm and a Yashika Mat.  For some of the formal shots I’d even drag out my old Bush Pressman 4×5.

Today a medium format camera with a digital back will set you back nearly as much as a nice car.

The Mamiya RZ33 kit is a modern medium format digital camera.  The camera, digital back and lens run an eye-popping $18,000.  For that you get an imaging chip that’s 48 x 36.  Compare that to a full frame 35mm chip available in the Canon 5D MKII which is 24 x 36.  The 5D with a lens is closer to $3,200.  That’s nearly a $15,000 price difference just to gain another 24mm on the vertical of the imaging chip.

Why So Expensive?

That’s largely related to the physics of building the chips.  When you double the area of a chip it reduces the number that pass Q/A because of bad pixels.  Even a small increase in sensor size significantly increases the number of failures.

Add to that the limited number of companies building chips that size, mainly for space technology and remote sensing applications, where they are considered “low cost” imaging sensors.

There just isn’t enough demand in the digital imaging market to make large scale production for photography a workable reality.

Is It Worth It?

Some people think so, but I’m not convinced.  The pictures I’ve seen from Canon 5D MKIIs and even my Canon 7D rival anything I ever shot on any of my old medium and large format film cameras.  Certainly there’s a difference, but the question is whether the difference is enough to justify the cost differential?

If you have the money, go for it.  I’ve seen some amazing work from RZ33’s and the Phase One 645DF, but I’m not convinced you couldn’t get almost as good from your 5D and you could buy six of them for the same money.